Montana's New Wetlands Strategic Plan
HELENA, Montana, March 21, 2008 (ENS) - Montana has lost about 27 percent of naturally occurring wetlands since settlement, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality. The federal Clean Water Act requires mitigation for some wetland filling and dredging, however, wetlands continue to be impacted and lost as roads are expanded, land is developed and due to cumulative impacts from numerous activities such as draining, changes in land management and landowner preference for open water ponds.
The dark green line of vegetation lying lowest in this valley is a wetland. (Photo courtesy Government of Montana)
To address this loss and prevent further losses, Montana has drafted a strategic wetlands program to guide the state's wetlands policy over the next five years.
The program will be activated by the Montana Wetland Council, which meets quarterly and acts a forum for all stakeholders to participate in wetland issues.
A new report prepared by Lynda Saul, Wetland Program manager with the Montana DEQ, sets out eight strategic directions where the Montana Wetland Council will focus its leadership, energy, activity, and resources over the next five years in order to achieve its vision for the future.
The report, "Priceless Resources: A Strategic Framework for Wetland and Riparian Area Conservation and Restoration in Montana 2008-2012," addresses these eight directions.
Wetland conservation priorities are funded by a U.S. EPA grant program administered by the DEQ Wetland Coordinator. Currently, there are 20 active grant projects involving state and local governments.
- Strategic Direction #1: Public Education
The Montana Wetland Council, MWC, will increase efforts and direct resources toward improving the general public’s knowledge of, appreciation for, and action taken to protect the valuable functions wetlands and riparian areas perform.
Ideal Outcome: Montanans of all ages understand the value and function of wetlands and riparian areas, and have access to information that enables them to act effectively to conserve and restore these ecosystems
- Strategic Direction #2: Professional Training
The MWC will provide training and information for public and private resource professionals.
Ideal Outcome: Public and private resource professionals are knowledgeable, trained, and prepared to integrate wetland and riparian conservation, management, and restoration into their work.
- Strategic Direction #3: Mapping, Assessment, and Monitoring
The MWC will complete and maintain statewide mapping and condition assessment monitoring programs to conserve and restore wetlands and riparian areas.
Ideal Outcome: Decision-makers, resource managers, and the public have up-to-date statewide National Wetland Inventory and National Riparian Maps in digital format, and rely on a field-based monitoring program that assesses the condition of these resources for making decisions about wetland conservation and restoration.
- Strategic Direction #4: Restoration
The MWC will support and continue to work closely with the Montana Wetlands Legacy Partnership – the Council’s key partner that fosters on-the-ground wetland net gain – and with others engaged in wetland and riparian conservation and restoration.
Ideal Outcome: The state actively supports and encourages wetland restoration and conservation. Montana’s conservation community has ample resources and works cooperatively to restore and conserve wetlands, riparian areas and associated uplands.
- Strategic Direction #5: Local Government
The MWC will assist local government entities with planning and growth management information, resources, and tools needed to protect wetlands and riparian areas, particularly in regions with rapid population growth and development potential.
Ideal Outcome: Local governments are knowledgeable, well equipped, and supported to conserve and protect wetland and riparian resources as they plan, develop, and implement programs and policies that enable them to cope effectively with rapid growth and development.
- Direction #6: Vulnerable Wetlands
The MWC will research, assess and provide leadership to develop Montana solutions to protect vulnerable wetlands and other vulnerable aquatic resources.
Ideal Outcome: The broader scope of Montana’s water resources, including vulnerable wetlands and other vulnerable aquatic resources, are conserved and protected in Montana.
- Strategic Direction #7: Public Policy
The MWC will track, assess, and inform state and national public policy proposals, decisions (legislative, administrative, and judicial), and actions that impact wetland and riparian area management, protection, and restoration in Montana.
Ideal Outcome: National and state policy (legislative, administrative, and judicial) protects and conserves Montana’s wetlands and riparian areas, recognizing the unique challenges of an arid, rural state with rapidly developing urban areas.
- Strategic Direction #8: Montana Wetland Council Effectiveness
The MWC will create a more formal and effective organizational structure for the Montana Wetland Council, and obtain stable funding.
Ideal Outcome: The Montana Wetland Council is an effective, action oriented network of over 1,000 agencies, organizations, and individuals concerned about and working for the protection and restoration of Montana’s wetland and riparian resources. The MWC provides the statewide focus, leadership, technical information, and coordination to accomplish this critical work.
These projects range from an evaluation of wetland impacts in Montana, to developing education and information about Montana wetlands, to a local partnership composed of local government, wetland ecologist and community volunteers to inventory wetlands for restoration and management needs. Wetland grant projects are solicited each fall and for approved projects, funding is available the following spring.
The EPA has identified six core elements critical to effective, comprehensive wetland programs - regulation, monitoring and assessment, restoration, water quality standards, public-private partnerships, and coordination.
In addition, the EPA considers outreach and education and a watershed approach to be inherent components of all water resource programs.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.